Ife Ogunjobi Interview
How did you first get into playing music?
From a very young age my mum just got me involved in a local music school and I started playing piano and recorder around the age of 6. I continued that and, at the age of ten, went to the Southbank Centre to watch Hugh Masekela and that was my first time seeing the trumpet/flugelhorn in that kind of context. From then on I just gravitated towards that instrument more, and it’s continued with me until now.
How did you get into jazz?
When I was 14 I started going to a summer school called Kinetika Bloco, which has a bunch of great people like Sheila Maurice-Grey and Theon Cross. They all did that as well. It was basically like a carnival band or a London samba band. It’s a few weeks in August, an intensive thing where you learn tunes and go out on parade and do things like Notting Hill Carnival. Within Kinetika Bloco there’s a lot of people from the jazz scene that are older than me and I looked up to them, people like Mark Kavuma. I just heard them playing and they told me how to get into jazz. I’d ask them ‘how do you learn to improvise?’ and they would tell me how to transcribe, what to check out and showing me things to practice. So it was mainly from Kinetika Bloco that I learnt about jazz and that developed further on when I started doing Tomorrow’s Warriors, when I was about 16. I joined Tomorrow’s Warriors through the big band, which is at the Southbank Centre as well, where they teach you about jazz improvisation, big band playing and from there I met so many people. I’m still there now and it’s really served me well.
You went to Kingsdale Foundation School in Dulwich which has a well-respected music department. How did you find it?
It was an amazing experience. I owe a lot to that environment, that school and to Mary Graham. That was the main part of my life where I really got things together in terms of music just in the space of seven years, completely focussing on music and having great teachers like Gareth Lockrane and Harry Brown at your disposal, for free, on a weekly basis. Just being in that environment, I think, was one of the most beneficial times for me. Everything I learnt there, it still serves me today, and will continue to serve me. Being influenced by so many different teachers, not just jazz but steel pan music, classical music, everything. It was an amazing experience.
How’s it going on the Jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music?
The guest artists that they get in are amazing. The one-to-one teaching. There’s so much to learn. They get a lot of international guests in like Chris Potter and Dave Holland, it’s really great to learn from them, and see them and be able to talk to them in such a small environment. You can ask them detailed questions and they’ll get back to you. It’s been really useful. The Academy has been great, to learn, and having the time to focus on all different aspects of music, from composition to harmony to the technique on your instrument. So basically it’s giving you that space and time to do that.
Tell us about the band that you’re bringing down to Brighton in April.
The band I’m bringing to Brighton is an amazing group of musicians. They’re very versatile. It’s labelled as ‘jazz’ but it’s whatever you perceive it to be. We’re a bunch of young people, all of us are studying music at the moment anyway. Bassist Seth Tackaberry is an amazing bass player who is with me at the Academy, he’s already developed into an amazing musician, touring with many people like Cory Wong. He’s going to be bringing down some great vibes. Deschanel Gordon on keys. He’s played with Shaney Forbes and a bunch of great people such as Winard Harper. My drummer is Zoe Pascal, another great drummer who has played with Steve Williamson. So we’ve got a lot of great people in the band and we’re going to bring a lot of different music and a different vibe to Brighton.
I’ve got new music together and I’m writing new music all the time. I’ve no idea what we’re going to play, it just changes all the time. I can’t even say too much about it because I don’t even know. There’s music that’s already been made, there’s new music being made, so you might see a couple of debut performances of some tunes down in Brighton. We’ll see what happens.
What are you planning in the future?
My plan is to continue to expand the band, expand the project, not necessarily making it bigger but just expanding on what we’ve done. Getting in the studio, recording some stuff, and then just collaborating with other people like I already do now. I play with Moses Boyd, I’ve played with Jason Moran and just collaborating with a bunch of great artists and making as much great music as possible. That’s what’s on my mind for the foreseeable future, anyway.
Ife Ogunjobi Quintet
New Generation Jazz at The Verdict, Brighton
Friday 26th April, 2019